As reported this past Tuesday by the Daily Telegraph and reprinted more recently by the New York Sun, China has been playing laser tag with American spy satellites:
China has secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by "blinding" their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday.
The hitherto unreported attacks have been kept secret by the Bush administration for fear that it would damage attempts to co—opt China in diplomatic offensives against North Korea and Iran.
Sources told the military affairs publication Defense News that there had been a fierce internal battle within Washington over whether to make the attacks public. In the end, the Pentagon's annual assessment of the growing Chinese military build—up barely mentioned the threat.
"After a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line," Defense News said.
The document said that China could blind American satellites with a ground—based laser firing a beam of light to prevent spy photography as they pass over China.
Is that special?
What with China being so cooperative regarding the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs, this should present no special concerns. Should it? Well, yes, it really should. Because according to Chapter 1 of 'The Proliferation Primer', a 1998 majority report of the International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services Subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs (Boy, is that a mouthful!):
China is the principal supplier of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology to the world, and U. S. government efforts to turn Beijing against international proliferation have met with little success.
Any takers on how much that situation has improved in the past eight years?
I just shake my head in amazement at how the Chinese delight in pushing our buttons and we sit here and doing nothing about it. Remember the Chinese general who last year basically said, as reported ($) in the Wall Street Journal, that nuclear war with the U.S. was inevitable?
It could hardly have come at a worse time for Beijing. When Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu of the People's Liberation Army warned last week that U.S. military "interference" in a conflict over Taiwan could lead to a Chinese nuclear attack on the U.S., he reinforced every worst fear of a "China threat." What's worse, indeed almost comical, is that he made the comment to me and a handful of other foreign correspondents who had been invited here by Beijing in an effort to improve China's international image.
Recent warnings about Beijing's military buildup suddenly took on a very real significance, and the cloud cast by the general's threat is likely to intensify pressure on the Bush administration to take a tougher line with China over everything from Cnooc's bid for Unocal to revaluation of the yuan.
Think that was accidental or inadvertent? Has Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu been purged or promoted?
Does anyone know if Sun Tzu has a chapter on button pushing?
Dennis Sevakis 9 29 06
Update: Spook 86, a former intel op, says he's skeptical. From his blog In From the Cold.
I don't think that any administration would tolerate attacks against key intelligence platforms, regardless of over—arching diplomatic concerns. Beyond that, it's difficult to believe that any regime——particularly one that carefully calibrates major diplomatic and military moves——would approve such a provocative step, particularly in peacetime.
But Spook 86 is still alarmed.
Defense of space must become a higher priority for this administration (and the one that follows). Otherwise, we may (in a few short years), find ourselves with a true "peer competitor" in the space arena——an adversary with the potential to disrupt an deny our use of that realm, and few options for preventing it.
P.S.——These developments underscore the absolute folly of the decision to cancel our successful ASAT program in the mid—1980s. That effort was built around a three—stage missile, launched by a USAF F—15 in a steep climb. The missile was successfully tested in 1985, but the program was later abandoned following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and before the advent of China's counter—space efforts.
hat tip: Bob Teeter